Thursday, April 7, 2011

"Less is More" is cliche is an excellent collection of Judith Neisser's

Made a visit to the Judith Neisser Collection on display at the Art Institute of Chicago Museum. The title of the display is “Less is More”, which I thought was kind of cliché and a little pointed at minimalist artists – but I love minimalist work, so it’s a display I’ve wanted to see.

The exhibit introduces itself with a piece by Jannis Kounellus entitled “La Rosa”. And yes, as you may suspect, it is the dark rose silhouette above. Actually, that image was probably taken a long time ago. The piece on display shows a significant amount of the unfortunately real force of wear and tear. While first viewing it, I didn’t have a clue that the rose was as flat as it appears in the image above. The sides of the fabric are now curled and frilled. While I observed them, I thought textures to be interesting oppositions to one another. I enjoyed the play of the now-wrinkled black fabric upon the warm-neutral, flat canvas.

So I guess this piece has been like a fine wine. I can’t imagine a flat rose on a flat background, no matter how dramatic the color and temperature differences, would be as interesting as it is now. I found the now-disassembled pieces of the rose especially interesting, which may not have been something Kounellus was intending at all. The rose called attention to being deconstructed a third time – it is observed in two dimensions with the eyes of the artist, translated onto the canvas and the separations of these pieces called to mind the third process of reinterpreting the piece by the viewer.

Another artist in this first room (actually, right next to Kounellus) caught my eye with some really interesting decomposition of the canvas. Lucio Fontana painted this series called Concetto Spaziale (Spatial Concept) between 1956 and 1966. You can see in the above and below images, the canvas does not function as we expect it to. What we want to be a painting is suddenly an object in and of itself – and I would assert that those are two very separate things.

I should note that these two images are very similar to those on display in the Neisser gallery, but I guess Judith didn’t want them all floating around the Intertubes, so I picked these. And I think they pretty well represent the subtle differences in the two on display. I digress – although they are in a sense quite similar, the interaction with these two objects is achieved differently in either. In the top image, the imagery formed around the holes in the canvas come secondary visually to the holes themselves. The hole interacts with the space behind it, which I thought was an interesting concept.

In the bottom image, the holes are visual elements among the textures of the canvas. Their disobedience of the canvas is less obvious – they seem to ask “What is behind the canvas?” while the top image said plainly “Here’s what’s behind the canvas.” I do think the bottom image is more visually interesting in its subtleties than the top image, but I think they’re both well executed.

The last image I’ll ramble about is this piece by Rosemarie Trockel. This is the part where I encourage you to go see the exhibit – seeing this piece as an image doesn’t come close to how interesting it is. The black wool strings are stacked in places (the one above is similar, but the one on display here in Chi was more thickly covered in wool strings). As you move around the black wool, it allows slivers of the white canvas through and appears visually as this very rich textile – something like velvet. It’s a very clever and quite thought provoking piece.

Anyway, go see the exhibit, definitely worth the trip (especially on free Thursdays) #winning

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Piece of the novel

Okay, so getting over my anxiety about leaving this open for everyone to read (does every artist get that...?). This is a passage from early in the novel. It's a conversation between the character and his little bro.

"            Are you awake
            I can’t really sleep right now
            Yeah me neither
            My brother and I shared a room, we were visiting somewhere, we slept on strange couches, we are young.
            I want to play mega man
            We would get in trouble
            I don’t think mom or dad would hear do you?
            I think so but I don’t know
            What colors would you want to be
            Do I just get to pick one?
            Ok pick two
            I would be the red and gold quick one and the metal one
            I would take the blue one and the freezing one
            Why would you be the freezing one?
            He can stop time and shoot you, you couldn’t do anything
            Yeah actually that’s a good one
            How do you know what colors you see are the ones I see
            Because we can both see red is red?
            No but what if I saw red as your yellow, but we just learn them as the same
            I don’t know… that is weird
            I know, weird
            I wouldn’t want to be the green one
            But what if he was actually the pink one
            We laugh
            They both kind of suck
            No they don’t!
            We laugh        
            I know, the pink one is good
            Yeah I know!
            We laugh
            It would be cool if you could get multiple lives
            Yeah, that would be cool. And if you could just find them around, like on different levels. You could get a bunch of them stored up.
            That would be cool, I bet we would be good too.
            Yeah, really
            But what would happen if you didn’t have any more lives?
            You would just die
            You don’t think you would start over?
            Hmm… maybe
            Yeah, maybe… I wonder what it’s like to be dead.
            I don’t really know. I think it would probably be dark, but that’s about all I know
            Unless you were in heaven
            Yeah, then it’d be different
            I wonder what heaven is like
            I don’t know, I just think of a bunch of clouds and light things and a blue sky
            Yeah, I think of that one too, and God has a beard that’s white
            Uhhuh. I wonder what Hell is like.
            Shut up, I don’t want to talk about that!
            Okay, I just mean I wonder what you know…
            Are you okay?
            It sat heavily upon both of our minds, we no longer spoke, we both looked blankly towards the white ceiling turned black with shadow. A fan hummed slowly above, we both watched it carefully, the severity of an eternal torture fresh and new, unexposed to the staleness it would eventually carry. The staleness of a red devil with a mustache, a pitchfork, the severity not yet diminished for repetition. The fires and oranges and demons and torture, and to be cast away from god and everyone else who went to heaven. And in the scope of one hundred years of life, eternity was anything but trivial, the implications of an afterlife were far but real. But children go to heaven, as long as they’re baptized, maybe even if they’re not, it’s not obvious.
            And where was death, how would I know it was coming, how could something be forever.
            Do you think you could really live forever?
            I think so… what else would there be?
            I don’t know, you would just… not be there anymore
            Isn’t it kind of scary to live forever?
            Yes… but dying is scary too
            We are lost in the predicament, and which is weightier.
            Are you crying?
            It’s okay… it’s not going to be for a long time probably.
            Well yeah, well… I just think it’s far away
            Okay, yeah, me too
            The light is gone save stars in the window, but they are mild and distant. The darkness encompassed the room, left the possibility for anything to exist in that intangible space.
            What do you think dad meant on the phone. Do you think mom is sick?
            No, he just said she had a cold, she’s not really sick
            Oh okay, who was he talking to?
            I don’t know, maybe the doctor’s office.
            And they said she was okay?
            Yeah, she has medicine, dad picked it up.
            I was a little bit worried about her
            Yeah, I think she’s fine though.
            A short pause enters the conversation, we digest the conversation, he says it first
            What if mom was really sick
            I don’t think she is.
            I know, but what if she got really sick?
            And silence slips into the conversation, into our thought processes. The possibility is unreal, it presents itself as an alien, it is impossible and amazing, it does not connect to everyday life. It is the other, real’s counterpart, and slowly, slowly the realization came. The thought processes synergized, and the gravity of what this might mean was overwhelming.
            It would be okay because she would go to heaven, and I exhale, I have solved the problem
            Yeah, and I can hear him sniffle. The thought has him crying again, harder, it is painful and logical with the world as I know it. Coco died, I will die, Mom will die. But no one knew quite what it was to die, because no one could tell us. We knew only that it was quite separate. And so we must simply believe. And I try to believe, but I am not quite sure what it is.
            But if I was the blue one, I’d freeze time, my grin invisible, but he could hear it. And he laughed, we laughed. And you’d just be stuck with the pink one.
            Shut up, I wouldn’t be the pink one!
            We laugh, Fine, fine.
            Did mom say you have a baseball game tomorrow?
            Yes, in the morning. Can I use your glove?
            Why, I ask, but I already know
            Because… you know why… Mom wrote my name in big letters all over it, it looks so stupid
            It really did look silly, I would have been embarrassed to wear that glove if I were him. She had this big black marker and wrote his name and phone number in big letters across one of the fingers, and again on the inside of the glove. So whoever was throwing to him saw all this silly writing with his name and some numbers, and it really did look silly.
            I let him sit there in the dark for a little while though. It was my glove after all. I didn’t really want him getting it all beat up or throwing it around or something. He probably wouldn’t though.
            Fine, I guess
            Thanks, I could tell he was smiling
            And the darkness to overwhelm the conversation, sleep to follow, rhythmically, the breathing in the room was grounding, he turned under his blankets and rustled his sheets. The sounds of the room, and the darkness just before sleep."

Appreciate any thoughts or opinions you guys have, I hope that my style leaves some room for you to find yourself in the character's perspective - perspective is something which really interests me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Cleveland Dean in the Prudential Building

In direct opposition to what I wrote last post (about posting updates to my novel-in-progress), I'm going to write about an artist I've been encountering just about every day for the last few months. Cleveland Dean's work is hanging in the Prudential Building here in Chicago, and it's really great stuff

I had a chance to talk to Dean while the installation was going up. I asked him to give me his five-minute schpeel - it's terrible, but that's what you have to do when you get a chance to talk to someone about your art... I know it as well as anyone... Okay maybe not anyone...

He told me that his work was related to ink-blot tests. I think that's pretty clearly reflected in his work. Being that he is of African descent, the black on black images take on an additional meaning which I'm not sure I like. But that's a factor which is beyond his control, so I'm not sure if we're allowed to put that observation on him.

The image above has a certain frenetic energy which is kind of ironic in its medium, being this thick tar. I like the many different textures Dean gets here from the layering of this tar substance in the central application, and the thinness we see as the tar radiates outwards, especially in the implied circle in the upper left hand corner of the canvas, is really nicely balanced.

The problem with photographing these is that I'm only able to capture a single perspective (a problem I have with my own work). The play of textures and the almost disorienting experience of perceiving black on black are lost to an extent in the photograph. In person, the imagery of the canvas itself is not so obvious and requires more interaction with the painting. Which can make you look a little silly, but hey, we're artists, everyone thinks we're silly. It's an effective and interesting tactic to engage the viewer beyond a surface glance.

There is a single red painting in the series. I'm not sure if it was meant to stand out amongst the other black on black paintings or if it is left from another series, but I don't find the red on red as interesting visually. The mysteriousness and depth the glossy black background takes on with a similar finish is flattened by the saturated red. We're also getting into this kind of oh-gross-blood-dripping horror kind of space, which, while I don't think was Dean's intent, was certainly something which came to mind while viewing. It's not an unsuccessful painting, but I do find the darker paintings more interesting.

It's a great display, and there are a few wonderful paper and graphite installations (I haven't caught the artist's name). Highly recommend a stop by if you're around Michigan and Randolph

Saturday, March 19, 2011

New writing project, I shall call it: A novel(la?)

So it's been a while since I've posted on here, but I'm planning to start recording updates for a project I've been working on for the past couple years. I'm working on my first novel(la?). I'm sure that it suffers from all of the cliche descriptors I can attach to it, but I have some confidence in the writing itself. I think the most obvious correlations will be Joyce's A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and (I know, I know, cliche as hell) Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.

When people ask me what it's about, I don't have an easy time answering. As I continue to write, I find that the story, the plot, is happening kind of organically (god I hate that word... it fits though), and my focus in writing it is more of capturing perspective as I've encountered it. Which isn't to say that this is an autobiography - a lot if it is fiction. It's the experience of perspective which I'm trying to be most honest about.

In terms of progress, I have what I'm considering the majority of the content written - at this point it's a little over 59,000 words. I'm in kind of a revision mode right now, but I'm finding that I come across some inspiration as I have words to which to react, so I'm continuing to add and edit as I read.

If people are interested, I'll dig through my more polished pages and put up an excerpt. I'm not expecting a whole lot of demand for writing from my demographic though. I'm sure there's plenty of it going around hahh.

So in the words of Charlie Sheen,